Wyrd Question Daze: Gareth Hanrahan

I’m Gareth Hanrahan, a writer and game designer. My latest major bit of writing is the third novel in my Black Iron Legacy fantasy series, The Broken God. With my roleplaying game designer hat on, I do a lot of work for Pelgrane Press; my next major release for them will probably be The Borellus Connection, a 1970s spies-vs-mythos-vs-the drug trade. Track what I’m doing at garhanrahan.com, or follow me on twitter for interesting retweets and the occasional amusing typo.

Where did you come from and where are you going?

Right now, I feel like I’m trying to get back to where I came from – we’re rebuilding the family house that I inherited from my mother, and the construction got shut down due to covid, so I’ve spent most of the last year just waiting to find a foothold again. Everything’s loops these days. It’s hard to feel like I’m going anywhere.

What preoccupies your mind these days?

A two-year-old chaos muppet means most of my days are spent thinking “why is that wall sticky? Where are there books all over the floor? What’s she climbing on now?” It’s hard to think deep meaningful thoughts when you’re on the floor saying “which one is the green block? Which one is the red block?” And then any other available thoughtspace is taken up with work stuff – there are bits of half a dozen projects running around my head.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell.

Taste. Chai latte. Horribly indulgent.

Touch. Tapping the end of my newish umbrella off a stone, or using it to steady myself in the mud when walking in the woods. I got a big umbrella a few months ago – nothing special, but it’s the sort of thing a grown-up would carry. I’m aware that I’m 43 and have three kids and a mortgage and am much too old to be saying things like ‘grown-up’, but I don’t feel at all comfortable with being an adult, or at faking adulthood. I suspect it’s because my career is profoundly unserious, coupled with being a rather serious and (literally) sober teenager/twenty-something. I don’t feel like I’ve changed especially in the last twenty-five years; I’m sure I must have, but it’s not inwardly apparent. Anyway, having an umbrella that I can poke into the mud feels, on some level, like a thing that a forty-something person would possess, and that’s satisfying and solid to touch. It’d like I’m grounding myself in middle age in the hopes my mind catches up.

Sound. The gap between the “I’ve been here” and “silent all these years” in Tori Amos’ Silent All These Years. There’s a little intake of breath there, a little moment of silence, that still gets me.

Sight. During lockdown, I’ve been walking around the local area a lot. We’re right on the edge of Cork harbour here, and there are lots of little islands and peninsulas. It’d oddly satisfying to line up landmarks, or to be able to look across the water and see the spot where you were yesterday. It’s like doing a giant crossword puzzle. So, I like looking from the south edge of Haulbowline park, and seeing all at once the national marine school, the Martello tower on the hilltop, the green hump of Currabinny, the edge of Crosshaven, the old Fort at the harbour mouth, and the opening to the Atlantic beyond.

Smell. The smell of the stairwell in the science building at University College Cork. It’s hooked directly to a memory of the summer before I went to college there – the feeling of stepping into an undiscovered future and growing up, of possibility and discovery.

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

I rarely remember my dreams, and they’re never especially vivid.

I do remember a dream my mother had, shortly after my great-uncle MIchael passed away. She dreamed that Michael called in for a visit, as he often did. In the dream, she knew he was dead, while he did not – he was a ghost or revenant, and she was terrified of what would happen if she told him. At the same time, she didn’t know how to bring it up in conversation.

Something about that combination of existential dread and mild social awkwardness – I’m sorry to interrupt, but do you know you’re dead – sticks with me.

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

No. I wish I had.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

I don’t know. I can talk about how a sense of place affects the way I express a character in fiction, or how my sense of a particular place is connected to some aspect of myself, but I don’t know how to address the question as applied to myself in general.

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

A few weeks ago, a parcel got misdelivered to a neighbour, and I went down and collected it. We ended up having a lovely conversation about mythology, and writing, and farming, and families, and coronavirus, and travel, and our backgrounds, and the local area – clearly, both of us had been cooped up with the same few people for months due to lockdown, and welcomed the opportunity to make a new connection. It was a thoroughly nice experience, made all the better because I wasn’t expecting it.

The Broken God – the third book of the Black Iron Legacy Series (a Wyrd Daze favourite) is out now.

Wyrd Question Daze: Kemper Norton

Welcome to a new occasional feature on the Wyrd Daze blog: the WYRD QUESTION DAZE!
First up, and setting the tone brilliantly, is Kemper Norton.

Hello, I’m Kemper Norton and I’ve been making what I once fatuously referred to as “slurtronic“ folk music for a few years now. The general themes tend to the folkloric, the gnostic, hidden or neglected with a particular focus on my childhood home of Cornwall.  I use a mixture of cheap digital synths, harmonium, occasional singing, field recordings and anything else lying around.

Our latest album (Troillia) was inspired by traditional Cornish dancing and Scottish playground chants and is dedicated to my parents (who are Cornish and Scottish respectively). The reception has been positive, but Radio 3 did point out how I had successfully removed all elements of danceability from the source material. Which was the goal.

https://kempernorton.bandcamp.com/

Where did you come from and where are you going?

Physically: from Scotland, Ghana, Oman, Cornwall and Sussex. Where am I going? Towards old age (hopefully) and watching my daughter eclipse and dominate me in all ways possible. I’d hopefully see out my days basking somewhere hot, but my partner fancies Northumberland. So that needs to be resolved.

Spiritually? I came from nothing/everything and I guess I’ll go back there. Feeding a tree.

What preoccupies your mind these days?

Family parenthood, intimacy, the joys and horrors of “community”, the toxicity of national identity, and the importance of being kind. Also if Celtic will ever get a new manager.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell.

In that order: Korean chilli sauce, holding my daughter’s hand, my daughter laughing, sunlight on the sea, fresh rosemary on your fingers after you rub a live plant.

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

A lot of my dreams feature playing football with Rod Stewart, which is occasionally frustrating but not usually terrifying. I guess the one where I was chased around Cornwall by undead Nazis on motorbikes for what felt like a couple of weeks was a memorable one. Oh yes, and I was the Virgin Mary in that one.

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

Several, but one that has always stuck with me was at the Neolithic fogou (burial chamber) Carn Euny in West Cornwall on the eve of the eclipse in 1999. Myself and a friend stayed on the site overnight and while playing some quiet music inside the chamber felt a hugely powerful presence. It wasn’t necessarily malevolent but very disquieting, and one of the key messgaes we received was that we shouldn’t really tell people about it. So I’ll leave it there.

Our album Carn obliquely references this memorable evening (as well as a similar experience at Chanctonbury Ring in Sussex, which other have reported and even made subsequent albums about) but doesn’t give too much away. I hope.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

Exploring and communicating with places and locations was the original motivation for any kind of creative expression, The details of my life are quite inconsequential but they obviously bleed into the work but I think there’s already more than enough confessional singer-songwriters around the place talking about themselves. I live a boring life and only want to share a few of its elements in encoded or subliminal form. That way my family or close friends  may spot any personal content but I’m not boring anyone else with it. It feels far more interesting to discuss or explore history, folklore, hidden or neglected places and people, and stories that may not be familiar.

An early motivation was also to describe in sound what certain locations (mainly in Cornwall) sounded like. I was often frustrated with ambient or synthy stuff that purported to do so, and I always felt digital, grainy or mangled windblown textures rather than smooth analogue synths was more like the sound of the Cornwall I know. Mind you, now the county’s becoming a millionaires’ playground and second home paradise, easy listening may be a truer modern soundtrack….

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

The direct community action in Glasgow to prevent an enforced immigration…it’s that kind of thing that needs to happen more across Britain if the most vulnerable are to be protected.

In terms of films and music, I’ve been enjoying the works of Alice Lowe (Prevenge, Sightseers) and feel she should be our next film superstar. Fantastic recent music by Armand Hammer and MXLX and less recent but no less wonderful stuff from Terry Riley (particularly the mighty Shri Camel) has been soothing the soul. 

Tell us a good joke, story or anecdote.

I’ll never forget the final words my beloved grandfather spoke to me.

“Stop shaking that ladder you little c**t“

Haze

a sonic painting by The Ephemeral Man

1 The Ephemeral Man – Haze
2 The Tape Beatles – Listen To The Radio
3 Nujumi – Tears
4 Andy Falconer – Bare Foot v2
5 The Ephemeral Man – The Forest (hello)
6 anrimeal – Hello And A Half (feat. Butterfly Child)
7 Steve Moore + Bluetech – Cosmic Shores
8 Polypores – Exploratory Networks
9 Kemper Norton –  heva
10 The Ephemeral Man – Faze
11 Dohnavùr – New Objectivity
12 Hattie Cooke – Don’t Wanna Talk
13 Enclosed & Silent Order – Seraph

Wyrd Daze recommends:

Sublime sonic rumblings from the Hypostatic Union label, who are sadly mourning the recent loss of veteran recording engineer, composer and producer John Hannon (Liberez / Woe / Understand / NO Recording Studio)

First up the transcendant Seraph EP by Enclosed & Silent Order (Stafford Glover & John Hannon)

The Hypnostatic Union website highlights a forthcoming posthumous solo album from John Hannon as well as a second full album from Enclosed & Silent Order slated for early ’22, so keep an ear out for those.

To be released by Hypnostatic Union on June 1st is the new solo full-length from Dead Rat Orchestra mainstay Daniel Merrill – a UK musician / producer now based in Cairo, Egypt – under his new guise, Nujumi. A significant departure from his work with Dead Rat Orchestra, the album, Bayt Clarke, brings minimalist electronica in the vein of Kraftwerk, Subotnik and Riley, juxtaposed with neo-romantic string orchestras. The new approach came very much as a result of his situation in Egypt, and the various opportunities and barriers encountered. As Daniel explains:

“Having constructed a studio in an semi-legal rooftop shack in Tagamoa, I set about building a new sonic architecture, where the process of composing and recording were thoroughly entwined. Returning to my teenage love of minimalist synthesis techniques, combined with my interpretation of Egyptian and Nubian drum patterns and technique, threaded together with my enduring passion for string orchestration.”

Hypostatic Union is a label in the east of England, making small releases from artists working in the fields of noise, ambient, grind and other sonic forms that challenge, provoke or invoke. Formed in 2019 by long-serving Extreme Noise Terror bassist Stafford Glover to release his own experimental projects, the label now aims to become part test-bed / petri-dish for new work and sometime chronicle of a loose collective of musicians linked by historical association and geographic locale.

Hypnostatic Union Bandcamp